Senin, 22 September 2014

Amazon lights a Fire with new Kindle tablet range and major HDX 8.9 update

Amazon lights a Fire with new Kindle tablet range and major HDX 8.9 update

Amazon isn't about taking customers on a Voyage these days; it also wants to light a little Fire, too.

The company has outed a trio of Fire tablets, namely a new Fire HD, refreshed Fire HDX and, yes, a Fire tablet for kids.

Let's start from the beginning; the new Fire HD is available in 6- and 7-inch flavors and five different color options, with the smaller version starting at sub-$100 or less than £80. It's HD display packs a whopping 1 million-plus pixels and its 1.5GHz quad-core processor helps tasks hum along.

There's a front and rear camera and Dolby Digital Plus Audio, a feature that should help Amazon's library of 33 million movies, TV shows, books and more pop.

Available in 8GB or 16GB configurations, the battery life is pegged at up to eight hours. It also runs Amazon's latest Fire OS 4, a.k.a. Sangria, which is built off PGEgaHJlZj0iaHR0cDovL3d3dy5ob3N0aW5na2l0YS5jb20NIiB0YXJnZXQ9Il9ibGFuayIgcmVsPSJub2ZvbGxvdyI+QW5kcm9pZCA8L2E+KitKat. Wine and chocolate? Tasty.

The 6-inch version starts at $99 (US$125 in Australia with shipping) or £79 for 8GB while the 7-inch version costs $139 or £99 (AU$166). You can pre-order either size now, but their official release won't be until October 2.

Fire to the X(treme)

Amazon's larger slate, the Fire HDX 8.9, is getting a sizeable upgrade, namely on the inside.

Users will find a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 8084 chip, Adreno 420 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The graphics engine, by the way, is said to be 70% faster than before.

The tablet also features Dolby Atmos, a first for a tablet, and Dolby Audio for booming sound that Amazon claims is twice as loud as the iPad Air. For another iPad Air jab, Amazon says its 8.9-inch tablet is 20% lighter than Apple's model.

The Fire HDX is also drinking up Sangria as well as the Amazon Fire Phone's data and product scanning feature, Firefly.

The Fire HDX 8.9 is up for pre-order now starting at $379 or £329 with a 4G version available for $479 (£439). There's no news on Australian price or availability just yet.

One for Junior

Finally, just in the US for now, Amazon is introducing a tablet for kids called Fire HD Kids Edition. Inventive, we know.

Fire HD Kids Edition
Playtime with your tablet

Front-and-center among the tablet's features is a 2-year guarantee that Amazon will replace it, "no questions asked," during that period. A play for uncertain parents, to be sure.

Another thing mom and dad should like is the year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a subscription service that brings kid-centric content to the tablet.

The tablet is basically the same as the Fire HD in terms of specs, even down to the size options, except for the kid-proof protective case.

The Fire HD Kids Edition starts at $149 for a 6-inch and $189 for a 7-inch.

We played with the worst apps in the world, so you don't have to

We played with the worst apps in the world, so you don't have to

There are now over 1,300,000 apps on the iOS App Store; the Google Play Store is home to around the same number of Android apps right now. What we're trying to say is - there are a lot of apps out there, and unsurprisingly, a lot of them are crap.

We're sure you've stumbled on some stinkers yourself, but we hope you've not come across any as bad of these. You see, at TechRadar we're making it our mission to scour the underbelly of both app stores to find the truly terrible, the truly disgusting, and the truly WTF, all in the name of technology.

Each week we'll be nominating an app that deserves the crown of "worst of the worst", with an aim to complete a list of the ten truly most terrible apps we've ever seen.

So let us begin our dangerous journey through the bowels of humanity's ideas. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

1. Pet Baby

iOS
Price: Free

Here's how I imagine the meeting at Trashicon HQ happened the day the idea for Pet Baby was born.

"Hey guys, people like sharing pictures of their pets. I think I've spotted what they call a 'market opportunity'."

"You sure have, Jerry. But our app budget is focused on babies right now. Babies are funny, remember?!"

"But wait, why don't we combine the two?"

*The room falls deadly silent. A single bead of sweat runs down Jerry's forehead. He's eyeing up his desk across the room, mentally packing up his belongings*

"Careful Jerry, that's the sort of thinking that'll get you a… PROMOTION."

*Everyone claps*

PetBaby

And thus, Pet Baby was born. An app that asks the question that's been on the collective lips of humanity since the dawn of man: "What would your pet look like… as a human baby?" Given that most babies look the same, the answer is probably 'just like every other baby ever', right?

WRONG. Your pet baby is a mutant child that will devour your soul.

You see, rather than making any effort whatsoever to morph your dog's face into some sort of funny canine-baby mashup, the app lazily hacks the two together with an opacity tool to create what can only be described as a pure evil.

But does the fun stop there? Oh no. No, once your rabid demon child has been conceived, you can expose your friends and family to the horror via Facebook and Twitter.

Just look at some of the beauties we came up with:

PetBaby

PetBaby
Then we tried it with some humans. That should work better, right? WRONG AGAIN.

And God forbid the app ever does produce anything looking mildly sentient, you can expect something like the following:

PetBaby

This app had zero reviews at the time of publishing.

Hands on: Dell Cast review

Hands on: Dell Cast review

When it comes to enterprise mobility, the message coming out of Dell's recent Solutions Summit in Brussels was loud and clear: business users still aren't making the most of their tablets. Dell reckons this is partly down to the still widespread perception that tablets are companion devices to laptops and are meant for lightweight, rather than heavy-duty work.

The PC maker is hoping to change that with the launch of the Dell Cast, a media streaming device that is set to come to the UK following a stateside launch earlier this month. The hardware shares similarities with Google's Chromecast: both are small enough to easily slip into a pocket, connect using HDMI and and let you beam content being displayed on a mobile device to a larger display.

Dell Cast
Small, but perfectly formed

There are, however, a few key differences that set them apart. Dell's product is aimed primarily at business users, costs more than twice as much ($80 versus the Chromecast's $34) and is currently more limited in terms of compatible devices.

Venue 8 Pro
Dell's Venue 8 Pro is supported

Where the Chromecast supports a wide range of Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, the Dell Cast only works with the company's own Venue 7 and Venue 8 Android tablets, with support for Windows (including the Dell Venue 8 Pro), in addition to its upcoming Venue tablets, arriving later in the year.

Setup and operation

The Dell Cast takes just minutes to set up. It slots into a spare HDMI port, along with a micro-USB cable that goes into the TV or PC monitor to supply power. There's also a full-sized USB port, which allows you to connect a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi receiver for pairing a keyboard and mouse - or a wired peripheral.

Dell Cast
Well-connected

Our demo was given on a Venue 8 Android tablet, which had the Dell Cast companion app pre-installed (it's available as a free download from the Google Play Store). You're presented with two modes after launching it: Productivity and Mirror.

Dell Cast
A tale of two modes

Productivity mode maximises the Android user interface to fill the entire display, but instead of mirroring the screen, you get a Windows-like desktop mode complete with a taskbar along the bottom edge that shows which Android apps you have open.

Dell Cast
A larger display brings media to life

It's in this mode that you can interact with screen contents with a cursor using a keyboard and mouse, clicking at icons and menu options as you would on a desktop. Operation is fluid, with apps opening and minimising in a second, web pages opening quickly and 1080p YouTube videos play without any stutter.

Dell Cast
Desktop mode is attractive and smooth

A nice touch is the way that you still get Android-like features - from the Notification bar that can be dragged down from the top of the display to the way the lock screen comes on when you've been idle for a certain amount of time.

Dell Cast
The lock screen works the same

Mirror mode offers a more classic screen-mirroring experience, blowing up the tablet screen's contents onto the larger display. Apps are once again maximised, but they're controlled by physically interacting with the tablet in your hand rather than using the keyboard and mouse. Whereas Productivity mode is more geared toward the individual, Mirror mode would be more useful for giving presentations or collaborating with others by passing the device around.

Dell Cast
Mirror mode directly replicates your screen's contents

Mirror mode is equally as smooth as Productivity mode and produced hardly any stutter as we opened and closed Gmail, YouTube and other apps.

Unfortunately during our brief demo we didn't get chance to put it through its paces with anything more demanding, and it will be interested to find how it copes during more intensive use cases - such as editing large spreadsheets or multimedia in the cloud.

Verdict

The Dell Cast is certainly a more headache-free way of getting your tablet's contents onto a big screen than snaking cables under carpets and buying adapters, and Productivity mode goes a long way to reproducing the classic Windows desktop experience on Android. As such, it's a boon for anybody looking to work within cloud-based apps using a keyboard and mouse but wants to avoid using Windows 8.1.

On the down side, the fact that you need a (supported) Dell device limits the appeal somewhat, although our Dell representative said that extending the Dell Cast's compatibility to other Android tablets in the future is a possibility. It's also assumed that you'll have a spare Wi-Fi (or Bluetooth) receiver lying around, in addition to a keyboard and mouse.

There's limited appeal for regular users, who could pick up a Chromecast, which comes with mirroring functionality (but lacks keyboard and mouse support), for more than thalf the cost.